Bemis's Heights, battles of.
, with his feeble army, had so successfully opposed the march of Burgoyne
down the valley of the Hudson
that he had not passed Saratoga
the first week in August, 1777.
When the expedition of St. Leger from the Mohawk
and the defeat of the Germans at Hoosick
, near Bennington
, had crippled and discouraged the invaders, and Schuyler
was about to turn upon them, and strike for the victory for which he had so well prepared, he was superseded by General Gates
in the command of the Northern
Yet his patriotism was not cooled by the ungenerous act, the result of intrigue, and he offered Gates
every assistance in his power.
Had the latter acted promptly, he might have gained a victory at once; but he did not. At the end of twenty days he moved the army to a strong position on Bemis's Heights, where his camp was fortified by Kosciusko
, the Polish patriot and engineer.
called in his outposts, and with is shattered forces and splendid train of artillery he crossed the Hudson
bridge of boats (Sept. 13, 1777), and encamped on the Heights of Saratoga
, afterwards Schuylerville.
New courage had been infused into the hearts of the Americans
by the events near Bennington
and on the upper Mohawk
, and Gates
's army was rapidly increasing in numbers.
felt compelled to move forward speedily.
Some American troops, under Col. John Brown
, had got in his rear, and surprised a British post at the foot of Lake George
(Sept. 18). They also attempted to capture Ticonderoga
Neilson House on Bemis's Heights.1|
had moved slowly southward, and on the morning of Sept. 19 he offered battle to Gates
His left wing, with the immense artillery train, commanded by Generals Phillips
, kept upon the plain near the river.
The centre, composed largely of German troops, led by Burgoyne
in person, extended to a range of hills that were touched by the American
left, and upon these hills General Fraser
and Lieutenant-Colonel Breyman
, with grenadiers and infantry, were posted.
The front and flank of Burgoyne
's army were covered by the Canadians, Tories, and Indians who yet remained in camp.
, who lacked personal courage and the skill of a good commander, resolved to act on the defensive.
and others, who observed the movements of the British
, urged Gates
to attack them, but he would give no order to fight.
Even at 11 A. M., when the booming of a cannon gave the signal for the general advance of Burgoyne
's army, he remained in his tent, apparently indifferent.
, as well as others, became extremely impatient as peril drew near.
He was finally permitted to order Col. Daniel Morgan
with his riflemen, and Dearborn
with infantry, to attack the Canadians and Indians, who were swarming on the hills in advance of Burgoyne
These were driven back and pursued.
's troops, becoming scattered, were recalled, and with New England
troops, under Dearborn
, Seammel, and Cilley
, another furious charge was made.
After a sharp engagement, in which Morgan
's horse was shot under him, the combatants withdrew to their respective lines.
had moved rapidly upon the American
centre and left.
At the same time the vigilant Arnold
attempted to turn the British
denied him reinforcements, and restrained him in every way in his power, and he failed.
Masked by thick woods, neither party was now certain of the movements of the other, and they suddenly and unexpectedly met in a ravine at Freeman
's farm, at which Burgoyne
There they fought desperately for a while.
was pressed back, when Fraser
, by a quick movement, called up some German troops from the
British centre to his aid. Arnold
rallied his men, and with New England
troops, led by Colonels Brooks
, and Major Hull
, he struck the enemy such heavy blows that his line began to wave and fall into confusion.
, below the heights, heard through the woods the dine of battle, and hurried over the hills with fresh English troops and some artillery, followed by a portion of the Germans under Riedesel
, and appeared on the battle-field just as victory seemed about to be yielded to the Americans
The battle continued.
The British ranks were becoming fearfully thinned, when Riedesel
fell heavily upon the American
flank with infantry and artillery, and they gave way. The Germans
saved the British
army from ruin.
A lull in the battle succeeded, but at the middle of the afternoon the contest was renewed with greater fury.
At length the British
, fearfully assailed by bullet and bayonet, recoiled and fell back.
At that moment Arnold
was at headquarters, seated upon a powerful black horse, and in vain urging Gates
to give him reinforcements.
Hearing the roar of the renewed battle, he could no longer brook delay, and turning his horse's head towards the field of strife, and exclaiming, “I'll soon put an end to it!”
went off on a full gallop, followed by one of Gates
's staff, with directions to order him back.
The subaltern could not overtake the general, who, by words and acts, animated the Americans
For three hours the battle raged.
Like an ocean tide the warriors surged backward and forward, winning and losing victory alternately.
When it was too late, Gates
sent out the New York regiments of Livingston
and Van Cortlandt
and the whole brigade of General Learned
complied with Arnold
's wishes, the capture of Burgoyne
's army might have been easily accomplished.
Night closed the contest, and both parties slept on their arms until morning.
But for Arnold
, no doubt Burgoyne
would have been marching triumphantly on Albany
before noon that day. So jealous was Gates
because the army praised those gallant leaders, that he omitted their names in his official report.
The number of Americans
killed and wounded in this action was about 300; of the British
found his broken army utterly dispirited on the morning after the first battle, and he withdrew to a point 2 miles from the American
to attack him at dawn, but that officer would not consent.
was hoping to receive good news from Sir Henry Clinton
, who was preparing to ascend the Hudson
with a strong force.
So he intrenched his camp, put his troops in better spirits by a cheerful harangue, and resolved to wait for Clinton
The next morning he was himself cheered by a message from Clinton
, who promised to make a diversion in his favor immediately; also by a despatch from Howe
, announcing a victory over Washington
on the Brandywine
(see Brandywine, battle of
gave the glad tidings to his army, and wrote to Clinton
that he could sustain his position until Oct. 12.
But his condition rapidly grew worse.
The American army hourly increased in numbers, and the militia were swarming on his flanks and rear.
His foraging parties could get very little food for the starving horses, the militia so annoyed them.
In his hospitals were 800 sick and wounded men, and his effective soldiers were fed on diminished rations.
His Indian allies descrted him, while, through the exertions of Schuyler
warriors joined the forces of Gates
, with 2,000 men, also joined him on the 22d; still Gates
His officers were impatient, and Arnold
plainly told him that the army was clamorous for action, and the militia were threatening to go home.
He told him that he had reason to think that if they had improved the 20th of September it might have ruined the enemy.
“That is past,” he said: “let me entreat you to improve the present time.”
was offended, and, treating the brave Arnold
with silent contempt, sat still.
A long time Burgoyne
waited for further fidings from Clinton
On Oct. 4, he called a council of officers.
It was decided to fight their way through the American
lines, and, on the morning of oct. 7, 1777, the whole army moved.
Towards the American
left wing Burgoyne
pressed with 1,500 picked men, eight brass cannon, and two howitzers, leaving the main army on the heights in command
of Brigadiers Specht and Hamilton
, and the redoubts near the river with Brigadier-General Gall
, and Riedesel
were with Burgoyne
rangers, loyalists, and Indians were sent to hang on the American
rear, while Burgoyne
should attack their front.
This movement was discerned before the British
were ready for battle.
The drums of the American
advanced guard beat to arms.
The alarm ran all along the lines.
had 10,000 troops — enough to have crushed the weakened fee if properly handled.
he inquired the cause of the disturbance, and then permitted Colonel Morgan
to “begin the game.”
soon gained a good position on the British
right, while General Poor
, with his New Hampshire brigade, followed by General Ten Broeck, with New-Yorkers advanced against their left.
Meanwhile, the Canadian
rangers and their companions had gained the American
rear, and attacked their pickets.
They were soon joined by grenadiers.
were driven back to their lines, when a sharp fight ensued.
By this time the whole British line was in battle order, the grenadiers under Major Acland
, with artillery under Major Williams
, forming the left; the centre composed of British and grenadiers under Philips
, and the right of infantry under Earl Balcarras. General Fraser
, with 500 picked men, was in advance of the British
right, ready to fall upon the left flank of the Americans
when the action should begin on the front.
It was now between three and four o'clock in the afternoon.
was about to advance, he was astonished by the thunder of cannon on his left, and the crack of rifles on his right.
Poor had pressed up the thick-wooded slope on which Majors Acland
were posted, unobserved, until he was near the batteries, which were captured after a desperate struggle, in which the leader of the British grenadiers was severely wounded, and Major Williams
, of the artillery, was made prisoner.
Five times one of the cannon was taken and retaken.
When the British
fell back, and the gun remained with the Americans
, Colonel Cilley
leaped upon it, waved his sword over his head, dedicated the piece to the “American cause,” and, turning it upon the foe, he opened its destructive energies upon them with their own ammunition.
sir Francis Clarke
's chief aide, who was sent to secure the cannon, was mortally wounded, made a prisoner, and sent to Gates
The whole eight cannon
Plan of battles on Bemis's Heights.|
and the possession of the field remained with the Americans
Meanwhile Colonel Morgan
had assailed Fraser
's flanking corps so furiously that they were driven back to their lines.
fell upon the British
right so fiercely that it was thrown into confusion.
A panic prevailed.
It was followed by an onslaught in front by Dearborn
, with fresh troops, when the British
broke and fled in terror.
Balcarras soon rallied them, while the centre, composed
chiefly of Germans, though convulsed, stood firm.
came upon the scene.
, offended by what he called Arnold
's “impertinence,” had deprived him of all command, and he was an impatient spectator of the battle.
When he could no longer restrain himself, he sprang upon his charger and started on full gallop for the field of action, pursued by a subaltern to call him back.
He dashed into the vortex of danger, where the pursuer dared not follow.
He was received with cheers by his old troops, and he led them against the British
With the desperation of a madman he rushed into the thickest of the fight.
When, at the head of his men, he dashed into the firm German lines, they broke and fled in dismay.
The battle was now general.
were the ruling spirits on the American
was the soul that directed the most potent energies of the British
One of Morgan
's riflemen singled him out by his brilliant uniform, and shot him through the body, wounding him mortally.
Then a panic ran along the British
At the sight of 3,000 fresh New York militia, under General Ten Broeck, approaching, the wavering line gave way, and the troops retreated to their intrenchments, leaving their artillery behind.
Up to their intrenchments, the Americans
, with Arnold
at their head, eagerly pressed, in the face of a terrible storm of grape-shot and bullets.
The works were assailed with small arms.
Balcarras defended them bravely until he could resist no longer.
The voice of Arnold
was heard above the din of battle, and his form was seen, in the mikst of the smoke, dashing from point to point.
With the troops first of Generals Paterson
, and then of Learned, he assailed the enemy's right, which was defended by Canadians and loyalists.
gave way, leaving the Germans exposed.
ordered up the troops of Livingston
, with Morgan
's riflemen, to make a general assault, while Colonel Brooks
, with his Massachusetts
regiment, accompanied by Arnold
, attacked the troops commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Breyman
rushed into the sally-port on his powerful black horse, and spread such terror among the Germans that they field, giving a parting volley of bullets, one of which gave Arnold
a severe wound in the same leg that was badly hurt at Quebec
At that moment he was overtaken by the subaltern, who had been sent by Gates
to recall him, “lest he should do some rash thing.”
He had done it. He had achieved a victory for which Gates
received the honor.
had thrown down their weapons.
was mortally wounded.
The fight ended at twilight, and before the dawn, Burgoyne
, who had resolved to retreat, removed his whole army a mile or two north of his intrenchments.
In this remarkable battle — won by an officer who had been deprived of his command — the Americans
lost, in killed and wounded, 150 men; that of the British
, including prisoners, was about 700.
was the only American commanding officer
who received a wound.
It is said that Gates
did not leave his tent all that day, not having recovered from a debauch in which he had indulged the night before.